If you had to graph my marriage, you would probably need extra paper. Certainly, you would need an oversized sheet with extra squares to track the vicissitudes. This is perhaps what has kept things more than interesting for 20 years and regularly sends me into a maelstrom of emotions ranging from pure, unadulterated loathing to adoration. The notions of complacency, happy medium and an easy ho-hum are simply not in my marital lexicon.
I suppose if one were to analyze this imaginary graph, one would see that nearly 20 years ago, two people who were entirely different got married in the proverbial fever and had three babies close enough together that they could have been misconstrued as a litter. Then, you take this man who has a propensity for electric guitar, the Grateful Dead and the solitary pursuit of golf on a hazy summer morn, and throw him into a pile of Pampers, a house in the suburbs with an antique boiler, four misbehaved dogs and voila! You have succeeded in turning a really cute boyfriend into a downtrodden husband.
Take the woman as well: At one time, she was a senior editor at a publishing house with her own office and assistant. She wore suits and heels and owned several pairs of weekend blue jeans that she spent hours purchasing, making sure that each one was sufficiently poured on over what was a neat figure. Suddenly, she finds herself barefoot and pregnant for nearly four consecutive years, finds her new office is the basement laundry room, suffers the daily indignity of having strained green beans spat in her face and spends her days meeting everyone’s needs with a smile when once, long ago, someone brought coffee to her desk. Not to mention that she used to greet rocker boyfriend at the door in something scant, scented with Chanel, and now wears a rather voluminous get-up that smells faintly of sour milk.
That’ll send your graph into a plunge right then and there.
Call me self-indulgent, but the last several weeks were devoted to finishing my second novel. I had promised myself I’d be done before my birthday. A gift to myself, if you please. I did not predict that the roof would leak, the doorbell would short-circuit and the basement would be overrun with mouse droppings. Nor did I know my middle child would succeed in passing her road test (the only test I ever prayed she would fail) despite the fact that, by her own admission, she nearly put the motor vehicle tester through the windshield because she almost missed a stop sign. She was flying into rages because I would not lend her my car.
I remained stalwart as I pecked away at the keyboard, ignoring piles of laundry and bare cupboards. The doorbell could wait, the mice hadn’t come upstairs and the new driver was not ready for a solo run despite the DMV sanction.
But, it increasingly puzzled me why it seemed no one else was capable of running the washer/dryer or buying bread and milk. Why no one else interpreted dogs barking as an indication that they needed to go out. Why no one else was bothered by the broken doorbell. And, I confess, I felt guilty. Oh, I told myself how I was entitled to this brief period of self-indulgence even though my husband was borrowing my socks (I figured if he started borrowing other lingerie forms, I’d do a wash). I mean, it wasn’t like everyone wasn’t aware that Mom hadn’t washed her hair in days and the state of the household was in disarray.
Did no one wonder why I suddenly abandoned the five food groups at dinner and felt lo mein and Diet Coke (we were out of regular soda, too) were sufficient nightly fare? Could anyone else boil pasta? I was tired, unkempt, frazzled. I found myself fantasizing about the male protagonist in my novel.
“You know, we’re out of raisins,” my husband said as we shared a pizza Friday night at a local restaurant.
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked, disbelieving.
“Nope, we’ve been out of them for a few days now,” he said.
Now, you must understand that this man is a real healthy snacker. But he works in Manhattan. He’s surrounded by delis and supermarkets.
I was outraged.
I didn’t buy the raisins and it nearly killed me. It went against every nurturing bone in my body. I was haunted by Sun-Maid signs. I watched Mark furtively check the pantry all weekend long. I saw him substituting stale honey-roasted peanuts left over from Thanksgiving for the small morsels of dried fruit. And don’t think I didn’t give him the cold shoulder, either.
It wasn’t until Sunday night that Mark begged to know why I was barely speaking to him.
“You said we’re out of raisins,” I said, ready to crumble. “Is there no end to what you expect from me?”
And then, he did the unthinkable. He laughed. “That’s what this is all about?” he asked.
He explained that he relied on me for things like raisins. Told me that he was tired of wearing my socks. Said that I hadn’t told him once during the week that he looked good in his new suit or that I loved him. “I can’t compete with men you make up in your head, you know,” he said solemnly. “Shoot me. I love raisins.”
OK, so I bought him the raisins. Actually, I gift-wrapped them. Last night, he cooked dinner while I finished the book. He even folded towels. I guess, when all is said and done, he is (and forgive me for this one) my “raisin” d’etre.